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tv   Talk to Al Jazeera  Al Jazeera  January 24, 2014 5:30pm-6:01pm EST

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>> he's the man who brought a generation to warp speed. although george takei is perhaps best known as playing lieutenant sulu on star trek, he has a decades long career, and recently wrote and start in a musical, regarding japanese internment. something he has an intimate knowledge of. he went to a camp at the age
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five. he's a bold outspoken support er of gay rights, he has 800,000 twitter followers, let alone his own youtube series. george takei, good to have you here. >> good to be here. >> i turned on my tv set not long ago and your face, was there, you're talking to journalists and knowledge legislators. you have as much of a passion for politics as you do for star trek. >> i'm a passionate guy and we live in a world that has so many things that you can be passionate about. either positively or l sometimes in rage. >> talk about your political came. where --
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l activism. where does that come from? >> japanese, we were captured by the japanese -- we are american citizens, brn and raise -- born and raised. my mother was born in sacramento. my father in san francisco. right after the bombing of pearl harbor, president roosevelt on february 19th signed scuff order 966 which ordered all japanese americans on the west coast to be rounded up. >> how old were you? >> i was five years old. >> did you understand what was happening? >> i didn't understand what was happening. my is parents were very tense. there was one morning that i still remember, they got us, my siblings and me, my younger brother and our baby sister, up
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early in the morning, got us dressed hurriedly and my brother and i were in the living room looking out the front window. and i saw two soldiers come master planning up the driveway. bayonets on their rifle. i saw it flashing. stomped up there on the front porch, banged on the door. my father answered it, and they ordered us out of our home. >> when you got older, what did your parents tell you about what had happened? >> well, i initiated that. because i started as a teenager reading history books and civics books. and i didn't find anything about what i needed to be my -- away i knew to be my childhood imprisonment. after dinner i engaged my father in long and sometimes very intense heated conversations about our is incarceration.
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and i remember my father saying our democracy ask a people's democracy. it can be as great as a people can be but it's as fallible as people are. >> coming to washington, d.c. you come to speak to the national press club and you go to one of the press clubs and somebody asks you about the national monument and you say the politicians are whack os. >> i had prplings visited those -- i had visited those monuments many times. i spoke i went to the dr. king plearl and i thought of his "i have a dream" speech and that was given on the steps of the lincoln memorial. we went there and saw president lincoln there. and then we looked across the mall to the far end.
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and i saw it as the national nut house. just the day before, the government had been opened. >> the national nut house would be the capitol? >> the congress -- >> the howpt howpts and house of representatives and the congress? >> you used the word wacko. >> i did use the word wacko. >> those people are crazy. they throw hundreds of thousands of people out of their jobs and they say it ultimately in the purpose of creating jobs. madness! you know, my life has been shaped by that kind of situation. madness, craziness on one end of our democracy and the shining ideals of our democracy, memorialized, in those monuments
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at the other end of the national mall. because incarceration of japanese americans was absolutely crazy! they didn't incarcerate the japanese americans in hawaii. that's the place that was bombed. but the japanese american population was about 45% of the island of hawaii. and if they extracted those japanese americans, the economy would have collapsed. but on the mainland, we were thinly spread out. up and down the west coast. >> so you experienced discrimination early in your life but you also experienced discrimination later in life as well, correct? >> i did. and that discrimination, i was able to kind of avoid. my face, my asian face, was a give-away. but from the time i was about
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nine or ten, i knew i was different in ways other than just my face. the other boys would say things like, sally's cute. or monica's hot. i thought are sally and monica were nice. but i thought bobby was exciting. and none of the boys thought the way i did. so i knew i was different. and it wasn't the way i was supposed to be. so i was silent about it. and i pretended that i was like one of them. you know, because when you're young, you have a great need to be part of a gang. to belong. and so i dated girls. and went to the senior prom. and i played a part. are is but then, as you -- but then as you grow older you learn that there are other men that feel the same way. but i'd been acting, pretending.
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and that leads into living a double life. gay bars, you know, but all surreptitious. secret. hidden. >> you lived a hidden life because you couldn't live an open life. you were afraid of retaliation, of what people would think, what they would say. >> well i was also pursuing a career as an actor. so here i am with this ever-present fear of getting exposed. and at the same time, pursuing a career in one of the most publicly exploazed business i -- exposed business i could go into. there was that constant fear and that aspiration at war with itself. and i was involved in the civil rights movement, in the antiwar movement, in the vietnam war. and then in the movement to get redress for the
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unconstitutional incarceration of japanese americans. all of these social and political issues but i was silent on that. >> then governor schwarzenegger in california caused you to speak up is that right? >> that's correct. >> what happened? good well, by that time, massachusetts had marriage equality. it came through the judicial route. then california, a precedent setting thing happened. our legislature, both houses, the senate and the assembly, passed the marriage equality bill. and all that was needed was the governor's signature, governor arnold schwarzenegger. who campaigned by creating an illusion that he was a friend of the lgbt community. and i thought surely he would sign. because he'd made statements like, "i worked with gays and lesbians.
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some of my best friends were gays and lesbians. " i was confidential that we would have marriage equality. >> but he didn't sign it. >> playing to that he vetoed it. his conservatism. >> i was enraged. brad and i were together then. >> brad was your partner. >> brad was my partner. we got married shortly afs schwarzenegger -- after schwarzenegger's video. here we were at home, comfortable, and i -- we discussed it. and i said, i have to speak out on this. i mean, we are so close. and that hypocrite, arnold schwarzenegger, vetoed it! and for me to speak out, my voice needs to be authentic.
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and so i spoke to the press for the first time. >> was the united states changed? >> it's changing. it's changing rapidly. yes, we're changing. but we need to change more. we have some ways to go yet. >> when you came out, and you got angry because arnold schwarzenegger wouldn't sign that legislation, then you -- >> and hypocrisy. that is what enraged me. >> then you became a real advocate for gay rights across the country. >> i did. >> tell me about the that. what was the reaction? mr. sulu was gay. >> there were a lot of those. reactions. did you get negative reactions as well? >> was negative as well. but it was overwhelmingly positive. i went on a nationwide speaking tour in partnership with the human rights campaign. i spoke at universities, at corporate meetings. at governmental agencies.
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and then i loipped for various -- lobbied for various issues like don't ask, don't tell in washington, as well as in sacramento, the california state capitol. >> you have lived an amazing life and a big part of that life is star trek. when we come back, we're going to talk more to george takei about star trek, after this. al jazeera america. we open up your world. >> here on america tonight, an opportunity for all of america to be heard. >> our shows explore the issues that shape our lives. >> new questions are raised about the american intervention. >> from unexpected viewpoints to
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live changing innovations, dollars and cents to powerful storytelling. >> we are at a tipping point in america's history! >> al jazeera america. there's more to it. >> there are families leaving our state to go to colorado because they need access to this medical cannibus. >> but it's not as strong louisiana where doctors have the ability to prescribe marijuana but patients are not able to buy it. it's something to look at. >> i continue to be opposed to legalization of marijuana and when it comes to legalizing medical marijuana, i'll be
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willing to make it legal for very strict use for patients. >> saving students through math. we continue our continuing series on education, by looking at how after school tutoring is helping teens stay out of trouble. car makers are looking at cars for the future. and how general motors is making
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>> welcome back to talk to al jazeera. we're talking to george takei. and i want to get into star trek a bit. gene roddenberry, i think you said he wanted a multicultural cast. how did tha that happen, and hod you get there? >> gene wanted to use star trek as a metaphor for so many things
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about our times, then and today. he said the star ship enterprise was the metaphor for the star ship earth and the strength of it lay in its diversity, coming together and working in concert as a team. we were all contributing our unique vantage point or our history or our talent, to the workings of that team, to meet that common chelg that we have. and -- challenge that we have. and so it was very intentional to cast the way he did. the captain was a north american, played by a canadian. the european representation was by scotty, scotland, played by an yiesh canadian. irish canadian, another canadian and i represented asia and mccoy represented the south of the u.s. >> how did you get the job? >> my agent
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called. rather a normal way in hollywood. i went to a meeting with a man named gene roddenberry, i didn't know him from adam. the thing my agent told me was, it was a potential series. it was a pilot, which meant, steady employment. and i was excited about that. he did tell me it was a sc i fi show. i wasn't that much into sci fi at that time. gene ushered me to a sofa, nodded behind the desk, the supplicant there, and we had a conversation. and he told me about the series. the concept. my character would be a part of the leadership team. and the whole vision that he had
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for the human future. i mean, to be cast in that was a thrilling idea! and i recognized that it would be a groundbreaking opportunity for me, an asian american actor. >> you were one of the first or the first asian american on national television, is that right? >> oh, no, there were other asians but they were mostly bum blin bumbling servant like sammy tong in father knows best, or this was the first one i was a regular on a series as a member of the leadership team. >> did you ever imagine that this program would have such an impact? >> back in 1965 when i was cast, i smelled quality with that show. however, television isn't known for respecting quality. all the shows that i really loved were cancelled early on.
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>> right. so it was over. you continued on in your career, but something was boiling beneath the surface with star trek. i mean, it we. >> what happened was, after cancellation, we went into syndication and the syndicators, the local stations, put it on fives days a week, monday to friday. and that's where we found our audience. and the popularity and the ratings skyrocketed. >> what did star trek mean to you, to your life? >> well, i thought gene created an extraordinary show. i mean, you know, it's still vibrant and alive, and has a mujhuge, huge following. in three years it's going to be celebrating its 50th anniversary. it was an extraordinary show, that created. had a vision of our future. a positive vision. not
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a distoapan society, but a bright society, where we are boldly going where no one has gone before. and i enjoyed being associated with that idea and jean's imagination, that -- gene's imagination that would use science fiction as a metaphor for the various social, environmental, political issues of the time. and the tv series dealt with the issues back in the '60s, mid 20th century. but somehow, those same episodes resonate to our times today. >> i'm told that your favorite episode of star trek is the naked time, is that correct? >> that's my favorite. >> why is that? >> well, you know, you get tired of is iting at that console saying aye aye sir, warp 3. and occasionally you get to say aye aye sir, warp 9.
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you're all tense. finally i got liberated from that could b console, ripped off my shirt and demonstrated my swash buckling prowess. >> i'm phil torres, for techknow contributor rachelle oldmixon... >> so the first thing i have to do, i get to fill it with saliva... >> this time, it's personal. >> you can fast-forward through this part... >> it's a test that promises to predict her medical future... >> my health risks just loaded, and the first one would give any woman reason to pause... nobody in my family has ever been diagnosed with breast cancer... >> techknow on al jazeera america real reporting that brings you the world. giving you a real global perspective like no other can.
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real reporting from around the world. this is what we do. al jazeera america. >> every sunday night aljazeera america presents
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welcome back, we are talking to george takei. have?
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>> it's over 4.7 million. >> how many twitter followers do you have? >> over 800,000. >> at the tender age of 76 you have become the king of social media. how did that happen? >> it's taken a long time, 76 years. >> but, i mean, clearly - when media? >> about three years ago. again we were talking about combining the various interests. we developed a musical "allegiance" about a subject too many don't know too much about still. and we have invested a lot of funny and talent and energy and time, and we needed to build an audience for it. the best way to get the word out, so to speak, and to educate people was, i thought, social media. i began. but the
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- my base was sci-fi geeks and nerds and i had to expand that. we tried a lot of different things. it was humour that seemed to attract a lot of people and get them to share and engage, so i started making funny comment about sci-fi and science and it expanded and i found that pictures called mims gets more, and a few kiddies gets a lot of likes and shares. so it extended more. we had a large enough audience, so i spoke about lgbt equality. there's a large overlap between sci-fi geeks and nerds and lgbt community. it exploded some more. then i introduced the sorry of the internment. people were shocked.
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so many people otherwise well informed didn't know about the internment. now i had people educated on the internment, i told them that we have a musical about it and we'd open in san diego at the old globe theatre and gave tastes of the songs and snippets of squeeps and developed an -- scenes, and developed an eagerness, a want to see quality, and we were a hit in san diego. >> you're not just on facebook and twitter, but you have a program online called take". >> yes, i do it in conjunction
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with aarp, made up of a lot of "star trek" fans. we wanted to make sure the demographics widened. "star trek" children are approaching arp's age. they have grandchildren. we play to the large audience. the "star trek" generation, as visionary as they are, are not quite into social media as their grandchildren or children are. my hosting, "takei's take", we can talk about google glass or, as we discovered, online dating is not just something the young people are into, because adrp members are now getting divorced or widowed and longevity has been extended, so they want a
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life with a partner or a spouse. we tell them about online dating. we are broadening the horizon for a larger demographic of people. phrase. >> i know which word. >> where did that come from. >>, "oh my." yes, it's a phrase i used all my life. when you see a glorious sunrise, "oh my", or someone makes a mistake that's embarrassing, "oh my", i've used it all my life. i was doing a play in new york. when you do a play you get an assignment to promote the play, get the word out. >> and this one particular morning i had my assign: it was a show called "the howard stern show" on madison avenue. i went to the place at the appointed time. they asked me to wait.
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i flipped through magazines and they had a disgusting conversation on, and i said to the other guy why can't they get some nice music. that's a horrible thing to have in the waiting room. >> he said, "that's the show we are waiting to go on." they came to get me. i was introduced to a lean, tall wild haired guy with glasses. >> howard stern. >> and i said good morning, and he said, "oh, you have a deep voice. anyone with a voice that deep has to have a... "i said, "are we on air?" and he said, "yep." i said, "oh my", and he had it on tape. so from then on, whether i'm there or not. whenever someone says something outrageous he presents a button and i come on and say, "oh my", now it's my signature.
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>> we wish you the best of luck with all your projects in the future. it's a pleasure to talk to you. thank you very much for talking to us. >> i enjoyed talking to you. >> this is al jazeera america. syrian peace talks, the government and opposition finally decides to meet face to face for the first time in three years of fighting. multiple explosions in egypt today as the country is on high alert. the revolution that toppled hosni mubarak. and new details in the west virginia chemical spill, the company knowing about the